Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fearless Women: Patricia Knop

(Portrait of the artist:
detail, Escape from the Prophesy #2: Wooden Wings)

Once in a rare while, you meet someone who is so passionate about the pursuit of creativity that you are shaken to the very core by their commitment to live a life dedicated to art, imagination and unbridled joy.

For me, that person is Patricia Knop.

I met her at a dinner party in Hollywood a few months ago and was instantly enchanted. She and her husband, director Zalman King, had us all spellbound with their tales of adventure and derring-do and I drove home feeling that I had met some kind of unearthly creature. Painter, sculptor, screenwriter (91/2 Weeks and Siesta, among others), librettist (Andrew Lloyd Webber's Whistle Down the Wind), jewelry designer, decorator and more, Pat has a high-speed connection to her goddess muse and follows it wherever it leads her.

After our dinner, I couldn't stop thinking about her funny stories, her fervent enthusiasm and her wise words, so I called our mutual friend Martha and told her I needed "another dose of Knop." Within hours, Martha called me back and informed me that we had been invited over to her house for tea. I took my camera because I had been forewarned it would be special, but even I had no idea of the marvels that awaited me.

When I walked into her home, the first thing I saw was this massive Victorian ship's head angel. I'm pretty sure I gasped out loud.

According to Pat, "It was bought at auction years ago and I was told it once sailed the Great Lakes. For a long time, we had it mounted on a big dolly and it took up half a room. It dawned on me one day that we could wrap the wings around a couch and therefore sit on the angel's back."
I find the placement especially genius because it symbolically transforms the couch into the prow of a ship.

Pat's home is a virtual art gallery to her many talents. Here, a lifesize sculpture of her husband Zalman reclines in front of an antique religious triptych from Peru.
"I never studied sculpting," Pat says. "One night when I was about 19, I dreamed that I came upon a spiral building with an old man sitting on the steps. All around there were monumental sculptures that I loved. He said, 'If you love them, they're yours.' I began soon after that."

(Celeb tidbit: Peter Sellers, the actor, bought several pieces from Pat in the late '60's and early '70's. One was a huge female figure stradding a base in a state of elation. It was airlifted to London and the Beatles were there to celebrate when it was uncrated.)

In the center of the massive garden pavilion are a collection of carousel animals surrounding a sculpture of Pat in a blue dress. She explains: "At one point, we bought an old carousel and I sculpted bits of my life to ride on it. Our kids were in a chariot, my parents were in a ticket booth, and so on. Ultimately, it proved to be too big an undertaking and we ended up keeping the animals we liked, but had to break down the rest."
("Blue Pat" surrounded by carousel animals)

("Blue Pat" by Patricia Knop)

In another corner of the pavilion is a floor-to-ceiling triptych called Escape from the Prophesy #2: Wooden Wings. It's based on a dream that Pat had in which she found herself riding in the belly of an old WWII plane with a group of paratroopers. A hatch opened and one by one they jumped out until Pat was the only one left. She didn't have a parachute so she found a wooden angel and jumped. The angel's wings broke her fall.

(Fashion tidbit: The black dress in the painting was a one-of-a-kind creation created by Issey Miyake for Pat's friend, French film director Agnes Varda. Pat coveted the dress and wanted Agnes to give it to her and when she didn't, "kept" it by immortalizing it in the painting.)

Everywhere one turns in her house, you are greeted by a colorful assemblage or striking tableau. In the kitchen, she has grouped her pottery by color and then surprises the visitor with a beautifully spotlit painting in the very back of each shelf.

Here, the colors of a ceramic parrot are echoed in a mountain landscape.

Pat also is an inveterate collector of suzanis. She appreciates their bright colors, the fact that they are entirely handmade by women in rural villages in Uzbekhistan and the personal stories that have been woven into each of them.

"To me," says Pat, "the suzanis are prayers made visible because they contain so many symbols of wishes for one's health and happiness."

She had always wanted to design one day, she just started doing it. Her pieces are all one-of-a-kind and fashioned from vintage costume jewelry, Bakelite, coral, even fossil ammonites. They are both sculptural and glamorous and made me think of Tony Duquette meets Marni.
Says Pat, "The jewels are simply minute versions of the larger paintings and sculpture. The compulsion to create them is the same, only they don't take half a dozen men to carry them."

Below is an especially beautiful necklace made of pieces of coral and a vintage jade Buddha head.

There is such an overarching vision to all of Pat's work. When I mentioned this to her, she agreed. "Maybe everything blends together because it's all big and little versions of the same thing...and that is the drive to get pleasure from what we're looking at. There's not a lot of difference between the pavilion and a coral necklace."

When I stepped outside into her garden, I realized she was right. All of her art and possessions vibrate to the same chord. Even the colors and shapes of her Indonesian swing can be seen as an exploded version of her Buddha necklace.
(Outdoor swing)

Off to the side of the main house was a beautiful two-story guest house that doubles as Pat's art studio. I begged for a peek and she kindly allowed me to photograph a few of the dozens of paintings inside.

Pat uses friends and neighbors as her subjects and often incorporates their dreams and longings into her work.
(A Milagro For Jamie)

(on left: I Live I Die I Kill For My Family; on right: Rabbit)

(Hot Winds Blow, Hormones Rage, Laura Dreams of Betty Paige)

(foreground: Sculpture of Diana;
background: Diana Beside Herself With Ostrich Eggs)

Pat, thank you for your graciousness in allowing me to traipse briefly through your life. I feel so honored to be able to present these inspiring images to my readers. It's been a great lesson to meet someone like you. So many times we (myself included) succumb to procrastination or self-doubt when it comes to following our passions, and it's such a mistake, because in doing so, we achieve nothing but a sad little pile of dreams deferred.

No more.


AlwaysMe said...

I am SO glad you brought your camera! What a treat to witness someone larger than life with so much talent in multiple areas. Thank you for sharing. Love all of the angels and dreams, especially the angel ship/couch.

pve design said...

Traipse, I think I would be skipping or jumping up and down to be in the presence of such a fearless dreamer and artist. How kind of you to share with us!
Just amazing-

Karena said...

I am wowed beyond, How do I meet this fabulous woman. She is amazing. Patricia Knop's style is so wonderfully eclectic!

Laura said...

I think people like the fabulous Ms. Knop are so vital to have in one's life. (clearly) interesting, inspiring...they just make things more colorful and make the best things in life seem more attainable than ever before. Congratulations on finding such a wonderful friend!

P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

How fantastical Lisa! I can imagine you were spellbound. I find it hard to take it all in and take pictures too-How do you do it? I would love to know your approach to taking photographs when you are visiting? There is a finesse there. I will have to come back to this again and again.Rarely do I feel envy- I am green (but more of a emerald)By the by-I had to have the YSL ring you featured in the W series. la

A Super Dilettante said...

Oh My! It's a true cabinet of curiosities post, my dear!!!

home before dark said...

Here's to living life large and in technicolor.Her life is the antithesis of beige.

Cathi said...

Wow...what an amazing woman! She definitely lives a brightly colored life! Very Inspiring!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this incredible experience with us! This is one of the most inspiring things I've seen in a long time.

Chloe King said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chloe King said...

As the daughter of Ms. Knop, I can't tell you how grateful I am that you've brought some my mother's magical gifts to light. She dreams and creates with little recognition, and is simply the worlds worst self-promoter. This is a great gift to her, her family, and all those who have never had the opportunity to behold her brilliant home, multiple collections, and creations. Thank you, thank you.

froogal said...

Thank you for opening another inspirational door for your readers. I want to hop on her magical coat tails and ride! I am fixated on the fireplace in the background...what is it made of? When can we visit again!

P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

L-I think it is so wonderful to have Ms King comment on your post Lisa. It is one reason the independent world of blogging works so well- there are so many incredible people finding incredible people to bring to light and celebrate- It proves that much of the time it is a lot, a lot of hype that sings the praises of mediocre talents- and the likes of MS KNOP do not- others doing things beautifully are alive and well thanks to our daily posts and reads!la

Megan said...

You were kindly invited to lunch - thanks so much for stowing away the rest of us for the ride. First post I read this morning and it has made my day!
Oh that we were all so courageous!

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

AlwaysMe: The ship's head couch is enchanting, as is Pat!

PVE: I SO thought of you when I went to Pat's house. As a fellow artist, I knew you would appreciate it.

Karena: Hopefully, the world will sit up and take notice and give Pat some of the attention she deserves. :)

Laura: I do indeed feel lucky to know her.

Little Augury: Great question! I didn't take photos right away...I had to let her home gel in my brain and then figure out what I wanted to shoot. But obviously, some things struck me right away...
And that's AMAZING that you have that YSL ring! Good for you love it?! xx

ASD: Yes times infinity.

HomeBeforeDark: "Her life is the antithesis of beige." So brilliant, so true.

Cathy and YellSoftly: I'm so glad you like the post. I think Pat is completely inspiring!

Chloe King: First of all, your comment makes me want to cry, it's so sweet. It is an honor to know your mom and I just feel so so SO strongly that her talents need to be seen by a larger audience. What an amazing family you all are...I hope someday to meet you as well! xx

Kathy Gillespie: Believe me, my post only scratched the surface of all the enchanted marvels going on in that home. I know Pat told me the tiles were vintage...I'm blanking on the name right now...they're very famous (not Pewabic, but... Anyone know?)

LittleAugury: Thank you so much for your follow-up comment. I do indeed feel like I found an incredible person!

Meghan: You made my day, too. But I say, let's take a page out of Pat's book and all be courageous, okay??! Let's. Just. Do. It.

Angie Muresan said...

Lord, what a fearless woman! I wish I had half of her bravery and talent.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Angie Muresan: Her story is a wonderful reminder to not to rein ourselves in, isn't it? xx

Kitty said...

wow! posts like yours are why i read blogs! thanks so much!

Unknown said...

I am one of the lucky ones who can say that I know Patricia and have been in her beautiful home. It's a magical place that even these gorgeous pictures don't fully represent. Patricia is a rare woman who is so inspiring and also completely open and giving. The world could use more like her!!!

mermaid gallery said...

That's what I'm talking about. I have searched and searched for that kind of inspiration. I feel totally in tune with Pat Knop. Thanks for the insight into her world. In a small way it reminds me of mine

Jill said...

I just had lunch with a wonderful man who knows Pat. He forwarded this post to me. Adore the suzanis....I collect them too. Beautiful, vibrant art from such a whimsical soul!

Great post.

abby jenkins said...

WHERE to begin?

I am awestruck by the magnitude of amazing treasures in her home.

What a gift to be able to breathe it in, thank you for sharing.


so many wonderful things and such a brilliant post - thank you !

Unknown said...

You've been tagged and given the Honest Scrap Award today!!!


Miss Cavendish said...

How glorious to live among such color and texture every day. I am transported to the happiest of places.

I'd love to know whether you have a photo of/information about what appears to be a maiden riding a dragon(?) in the carousel grouping. It has caught my fancy and will not let go.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Miss Cavendish: I will check...and if for some reason I only have a partial photograph, I'll take a full shot the next time I visit that enchanted wonderland. Pinkie swear.

CashmereLibrarian said...

I used to run by this house when I lived in Santa Monica and I remember trying to see inside! One can vaguely see the sculptures through the windows and it looked both mysterious and enchanting! Thank you for finally giving me the opportunity to see all the beauty!

Sildenafil said...

I know what is like to know a person like that, I think that all we expect to know a person that impresses us since the first moment, it happened to me just once, I met a great person... I was lucky enough and I married her!

Generic Viagra said...

I'm totally astonished because I think this woman is an artist because I saw the art she has in her house, it's perfect, and also her decoration is amazing, just look at the figures and sculptures she has in there, is totally surrealist.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jo said...

Loved seeing these photos. I went to Nelson School Kindergarten with Pat. So nice to hear of her successes, and so sorry to hear of Zalman's death.

jo said...

Loved seeing these photos. I went to Nelson School Kindergarten with Pat. So nice to hear of her successes, and so sorry to hear of Zalman's death.


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